Updated: September 1, 2023
As you’re planning a Hawaiian vacation and searching for the best place to stay in Waikīkī, there are several things worth considering. Are you traveling as a family? Are there elders in your party? Are you traveling alone or with a friend or partner?
However and whenever you arrive, the islands offer you stunning beaches and tropical seaside adventures—all within minutes of Waikīkī!
Waikīkī is in the city of Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Waikīkī is close to Hawaii’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and a popular launch point for exploring the rest of the island.
So without further ado, let’s explore the best local accommodations, who visits, and some great places to explore nearby. Waikīkī has something to offer travelers of all ages.
Best Hotels in Waikīkī for Families: Sheraton Waikīkī
The Sheraton Waikīkī is a high-end hotel in the center of it all and a perfect option for families taking a Hawaiian vacation. It has top-notch luxury accommodations, as well as beach access, dining, a fitness center, spa, shopping, cultural activities, and access to nearby cultural, historical, and recreational sites.
It has two world-class pools in addition to prime beach access, three in-house restaurants, and ocean views from dozens of rooms along with 136 beachfront suites. They offer on-site daycare, an airport shuttle, and are close to nearby shops, restaurants, and entertainment in the center of Waikīkī.
Furthermore, the Sheraton Waikīkī is right on the beach!
Edge Infinity Pool (adults 16 or older)
The Edge Infinity Pool at Sheraton Waikīkī is North America’s longest oceanfront infinity edge pool.
An infinity pool is a swimming pool that appears to merge with the ocean. Sheraton’s Edge infinity swimming pool allows you to float and relax with views of nearby Waikīkī Beach and Diamond Head.
Hotel attendants bring refreshments, beverages, and snacks to you at the poolside from the pool bar, Edge of Waikīkī. Guests may also upgrade to a luxury cabana or partially submerged lounge chairs by making reservations at the hotel Pool Desk or online. Pool guests must be 16 years of age or older.
Helumoa Playground Pool (waterslide and fountain)
For more of a family pool experience, the Sheraton offers the Helumoa Playground Pool. It has two fresh-water swimming pools, a water slide measuring 15 feet high by 70 feet long, an interactive kids’ fountain, two giant whirlpools with stunning views of Waikīkī Beach, as well as food and beverages.
The pool hut enables guests to borrow beach towels, and purchase pool toys and products like sunscreen. Poolside servers fulfill your snack and beverage orders while you relax on sunning benches. An adult must accompany pool guests under 16.
Best Hotels in Waikīkī for Couples: The Royal Hawaiian
Couples looking for the best places to stay in Waikīkī should look no further than The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort. Founded in 1927, the Royal was originally built to accommodate passengers on the Matson Navigation Company’s steamship line. The hotel resides on 15 acres of beachfront with Moorish architectural influences.
However, by the 1950s, fewer guests traveled to the islands aboard steamships due to more extensive air travel to Hawaii, so the Matson company sold its first hotels, including the Royal, to the Sheraton chain.
Today, The Royal Hawaiian offers historic rooms and suites that reflect the hotel’s 1920s heritage as well as more contemporary luxury accommodations. Guests have access to all the amenities and services of the resort, including valet parking and discounts in the hotel gift shop.
Dining here is a luxury affair with several options to choose from, making every meal an occasion. Dining selections include two restaurants and bars, on-site bakery and patisserie, a beachside restaurant, luau Hawaiian heritage meals, and room service.
The chefs at the Royal offer contemporary and classic Hawaiian cuisine as well as continental classics.
The Royal also offers meeting and event spaces, as well as luxury wedding accommodations. Wedding parties can host their special day at the Royal—including guest accommodations.
Best Hotels in Honolulu for Honeymoon: Moana Surfrider
Honeymooners will love staying at the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa. Considered “The First Lady of Waikīkī,” the Moana opened its doors in 1901. It offers Victorian elegance with modern comforts and amenities.
The Moana is steps from the pristine white sands of Waikīkī Beach and a short stroll from the areas’ shopping, dining, and entertainment. However, there are plenty of things to do on-site, including an outdoor pool, fitness center, beachside spa, and the hotel boasts six restaurants and bars.
The Moana offers three types of rooms. They include suites, penthouse rooms, ocean view rooms, and rooms with views of Diamond Head. The hotel also features the historic Banyan Wing. Relax in the most exceptional amenities Waikīkī has to offer as you dine in stately Victorian surroundings, enjoying Hawaiian delicacies under a historic banyan tree listening to the peaceful sounds of Waikīkī Beach.
Couples and newlyweds should make the Moana Surfrider their first choice for a beach hotel in Hawaii. The historic charm, perfect accommodations, fine dining, and proximity to the center of Waikīkī are unmatched.
Best Place to Stay on a Budget: Princess Kaiulani
If you’re traveling to the islands on a budget, then the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is the best place to stay. Located one block from Waikīkī Beach, the Princess is also within walking distance of the area’s fine dining, shopping, and entertainment. Many area attractions are close by as well, including Diamond Head and the Honolulu Zoo.
The Princess Kaiulani has a 24-hour gym, outdoor pool, breakfast buffet, and offers pau hana (happy hour) at the Splash Bar. It also has event facilities that will accommodate up to 500 guests.
Lots of Cultural Activities
The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani hotel has a daily schedule of cultural events.
- Hawaiian quilt making
- Lei making
- Keiki (children’s) activities, such as crafts, hula, and learning to play the ukulele
- Adult hula and ukulele lessons
- Bracelet making from haku and kukui nut
The site of the Princess Kaiulani hotel is the historic location of Āinahau, the royal estate of the Princess Victoria Ka’iulani, who was heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. The Moana Hotel built bungalows on the site that were removed in the 1950s when the Matson Line built the Princess Kaiulani Hotel, which opened in 1955.
Why Stay in Waikīkī?
There are lots of reasons to stay in Waikīkī. There are so many shops, restaurants, entertainment options (both outdoor and indoor), and numerous other historical and other types of local attractions. Other travelers will tell you Waikīkī is the center of things within the resort and tourist-centric part of Honolulu. There are pros and cons to staying in Waikīkī.
Pros of Staying in Waikīkī
- Numerous options for accommodations
- A large concentration of dining selections
- Shopping (SO much great shopping)
- Family-friendly swimming areas (beaches and pools)
- Outdoor gyms, walking, and running trails
- Surf lessons
- Proximity to the Diamond Head Hike trailhead
- Tours begin and end in Waikīkī
- Great weather
Cons of Staying in Waikīkī
- Crowds and lots of tourists
- Heavy traffic throughout the day
- Parking is expensive
- Busy local beaches during high tourist season
- Has a city feel compared to other parts of the island
Who Stays in Waikīkī?
People from many nations and in various stages of life stay in Waikīkī. The area is particularly well-suited for families, couples, business, and older travelers, as well as the solo vagabond seeking adventure.
Waikīkī is probably the first choice for families visiting Hawaii. Its central location, proximity to nearby attractions on the island and neighbor islands, and access to family-friendly swimming areas that are safe for kids are among its most desirable features.
Parents can rest easier, knowing they won’t need to watch for high water conditions where their kids are swimming. Also, many resorts have pools and outdoor spas. Parents can take advantage of the nightlife around Waikīkī for entertainment, shopping, and fine dining.
Newlyweds and couples love staying in Waikīkī. Proximity to lodging, fine dining, entertainment, and excursions on the island and neighbor islands are all within reach from Waikīkī. You and your beloved or friend can spend the day exploring the beauty and wonders of the islands (see things to do below). Afterward, you can return to your lodging and relax, enjoy pau hana at the hotel bar, or any number of nearby restaurants and cafes.
Couples enjoy the nearby amenities of Waikīkī, the pedestrian-friendly environment, and accommodations that speak to your tastes and your budget. You can plan your entire trip around your home base in Waikīkī!
Senior travelers will appreciate the simplicity and convenience of Waikīkī. All the shops, restaurants, and entertainment are within walking distance. Many hotels have all these amenities within steps of your room. Tour operators offer convenient pick-up and drop-off at your hotel, too.
Older travelers will enjoy having several options for accommodations that are family-oriented or designed more for private enjoyment. Poolside service, fine dining, room service, and housekeeping all designed to make your stay comfortable and relaxing.
If it’s your first time in Hawaii, Waikīkī is a great first destination. There are so many options right at your doorstep. It’s an excellent location for your first island getaway. The wide selection of accommodations, shopping, and fine dining provide the first-time visitor with all the amenities necessary for awesome excursions to the many nearby island destinations.
Things to Do Around Waikīkī
Here’s a brief roundup of things to do around Waikīkī.
Diamond Head Hike
Diamond Head (Lē’ahi in Hawaiian) is the crater of a volcanic cone or vent. Diamond Head Crater is a Hawaii State Monument and a National Natural Landmark located on the eastern end of the island of Oahu.
The steep hike from the trailhead to the summit of Lē’ahi is 0.8 miles from the crater floor. The remains of a US military installation, a lighthouse, and bunkers, are part of the scenery on the way to the summit observation platform. The stunning views from the summit are breathtaking and worth the effort.
Note: there is a $10 per vehicle or $5 per walk-in entry fee.
Manoa Falls is a beautiful 150-foot waterfall located in the Koolau mountains of the Manoa Valley on the island of Oahu. The one-mile hike through a beautiful tropical rainforest takes about an hour, round-trip.
Located along the Manoa Valley portion of the Manoa Falls Trail is the nearby Lyon Arboretum. The arboretum houses over 5,000 plant species, some endangered Hawaiian species.
Note: there is a $5 parking fee.
Hanauma Bay Snorkeling
Hanauma Bay is a public beach, state park, and nature preserve located in East Honolulu in the Hawaiian Kai neighborhood. It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island and is known for the variety of marine life living in and around the bay’s coral reef.
Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay is legendary. The large population of marine life, coral reef, white beaches, and calm waters make snorkeling at Hanauma Bay a fantastic experience.
Note: there is a $3 parking fee and admission is $25 per person (free for children under 12).
People Also Ask
Questions from our readers about planning a Hawaiian vacation.
Where Should I Go on Vacation in Hawaii for the First Time?
The best first stop for a Hawaiian vacation is the island of Oahu. Home to the state capitol and its international airport, Pearl Harbor, and Waikīkī Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii, is a perfect choice for your first-time Hawaiian vacation.
What is the Best Hotel in Waikīkī?
There are many hotels to choose from when staying in Honolulu. We reviewed four of the area’s most elegant hotels above, but the best among them is the Sheraton Waikīkī.
The Sheraton offers the most exceptional accommodations Waikīkī has to offer. Families, couples, and older travelers will enjoy the amenities and access to Honolulu’s restaurants, shops, and entertainment.
The family-friendly Helumoa Playground Pool and protected beach provide children with a safe environment for fun outdoor island play. Adult-only accommodations enable parents, grandparents, or anyone over 16 the opportunity to enjoy the island experience in adult company.
Are Honolulu and Waikīkī the Same?
Waikīkī is a section of the City of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
How Far is Honolulu Airport from Waikīkī?
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is 8.6 miles or about 20 minutes from Waikīkī in light traffic.
Planning your Hawaiian vacation starts by picking the best place to stay—and we’ve covered the best places to stay for families, couples, honeymooners, seniors, and budget travelers.
People of all ages will love the vast array of accommodations, dining, and entertainment available in Waikīkī. It’s also the launch point for excursions both on Oahu and on neighbor islands that are sure to thrill.
You can read more about the exciting natural, cultural, and historical attractions in and around Oahu and Waikīkī at Gohawaii.com.